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Monday, February 16, 2015

February 15, 2015

Today the ice on the back roads chooses my route for me.  It is cold outside, numbingly cold, the kind of cold that takes your breath away, and there is a chill advisory; but snow is predicted for tomorrow and I want to get at least a few miles in.  I have ridden a century in even colder weather so I know that while it may not be as pleasant as a spring century, it can be done.  And normally I find I am enjoying myself so long as I am dressed appropriately.

 Before heading out I slather my face in Vaseline and dress in layer upon layer of wool praying that I have no mechanical issue along the way.  At least on a main road, there is more of a chance of rescue if something does go wrong, though my original intention is to ride the back roads.  One reality of my new life is the lack of a prince to rescue me when I do something stupid. Only a short trip on those back roads is enough to convince me to turn around and head toward a main road.  Something within me needs to go free before being confined by wintery weather, and if that means main roads, so be it.   I also know I have no business riding on ice and I do not want to fall. Healing that took month after month has taught me the luxury that is sleeping on your side without your shoulder hurting and constantly awakening you.  Yes, if I ride I know I will fall again, but I do all I can to prevent it. I had  hoped we might miss the snow this year, but God thought otherwise.

I head out into a world where the sun is shining and the sky is brilliantly blue, but otherwise there is no color that is not man made and rather tawdry, at least other than cardinals and woodpeckers, and there is certainly no warmth.  At least the wind is manageable, though as light as it is my pace often becomes only a determined crawl.  The longer I ride, the less blue there is above as the sky pulls her fluffy white blankets up around her neck preparing for the coming of the snow. 

Around me the air is silent, as if the world is momentarily paused, holding her breath to see if the snow and frigid temperature prediction is true.  Not one bird song or frog croak crack the frigid silence.  The sound of my bicycle seems to be the only sound in the world today. Will this silence ever be broken by singing again?  I think of how my husband, despite my poor singing ability, always said he enjoyed having a wife who sang.  I sing doing housework, rocking babies to sleep, etc. until once my children said it was like being raised in a musical.  Oddly enough, I come upon a huge frog, frozen thus changing my thoughts. It is lying in the road, one leg literally jaggedly cracked off.  How did he get there?  Did some predator dig him up from his winter sleep?  If so, why was he not devoured? We have not yet had warm enough weather for frogs to stir.  I tell him I am sorry and ride on briefly pondering his fate.

I only ride 38 miles, but I feel better when I return.  Supper is a non-issue as yesterday I made bread and chili and with just one of me, there is more than enough for dinner tonight.  Thank you, God, for my daily bread.  Chores were done after my run yesterday morning.  But there are books waiting, books that can take me places I have never been or bring me back to visit places that I long for; and there are blankets and pillows and cats to snuggle with while I go without ever leaving my home.  And while this pretend world is not in the end as satisfying as the real one can be at times, it is pleasurable.  And it is warm.  And for right now, it is what I have.  Yet again, I thank my husband for his part in providing me with this shelter and for allowing me to dream.  "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."   Neil Gaiman

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Warm February Century

 "When you love someone, it's never over," Dr.
Carruthers replied gently.  "You move on because
you have to, but you bring him in your heart."
Elizabeth Chandler




While I would not change the predicted weather for today even if I had the power, this faint breath of spring in the midst of winter is almost cruel, another reminder of what we have not. Goodness how I long for warmth and sunshine.  It is Saturday so I do not have to work and I have no pressing obligations,  the sun is supposed to shine, a treat in the midst of an all too gray and dreary winter,  the weather is to warm to near sixty degrees.  The wind prediction is the only fly in the ointment, but I have ridden through stronger winds before. Briefly I think of the t-shirt that I had made for Mike and for myself: "I biked Ike.  Got wind?"  Briefly I wonder if that person is still there but I know she is and  the only real question is where to roam.  

Initially I contemplate new, unfamiliar roads, but my current weakness combined with shortened day light hours gives me pause and I decide to head toward Hardinsburg/Lavonia.  It is odd, this not being accountable to anyone for my time. Soon I settle into the old, familiar rhythm of pedaling and for just a moment in time I can delude myself into believing that nothing, including me, has changed.

Despite the stark, monotone scenery, there is a beauty in the very austerity that meets my eyes.  Wheat fields gleaned in the fall maintain their clean shaven sharpness without even the merest spark of green.  Branches on trees are not yet blurred with the promise of leafing out.  In forested areas, the brown oak leaves are only now littering the ground and give away the presence of the squirrels and deer I encounter. The only color seems to be that of the blue sky.  And the only sign that spring might yet become a reality is the occasional sound of a bird bravely telling the bully winter that her reign will end and raucous calling for a mate will commence.

I spend time of course mourning, for I have not yet made it through a day without spending at least a minute or two in tears, but I also spend time thinking how best to move forward and wondering when life will once again have spice to it.  I do not fool myself that things will ever be the same, but I am old enough to know I will laugh again and that different does not always mean bad. I am old enough to know that I will possibly even love again, however differently.  I count my blessings, and there are many. And I forgive myself for my recent sloth and tiredness.  Grieving is exhausting.  How do you get over something that does not end?  I suspect that you don't, but that you find a way to move forward so that only those closest to you see the life scars.   And I suspect that those scars may give certain experiences even more sweetness than they might otherwise have had as we become who we will end up being. 

I think about brevets.  Originally I had intended to ride PBP again this summer, and perhaps it will yet again assert its siren song, but I also contemplate not riding any brevets or riding the 1000K in Nova Scotia.  For some reason, Nova Scotia caught my eye and sparked at least a flicker of interest.  It felt nice to actually be interested in something and not have it be a pretense.  I even look up the air fare to see if it is financially feasible, for that aspect of my life has changed as well.  I decide that I will just see how the 200K goes and not press myself for a decision when one does not yet have to be made.

I pass the first of the lambs that I have seen this spring, calmly resting, contentedly munching hay as there is not yet fresh grass to pasture on.  I pass abandoned, falling down houses that once might have been glorious, vividly alive with the personalities of the people who inhabited them.  What were those people like? What did the rooms look like?  The garden?  Were there little ones?  Who looked out those windows or loved the light enough to have so many each next to each other despite the sacrifice of warmth in the winter.  And at what point did they just quit renewing the house by making repairs and remodeling and allow it to become just a falling down house instead of a home:  illness, poverty, laziness, the siren song of something new?

I come to the third store stop, but somehow I cannot face Amos yet so I ride onwards and home.  While my friends don't understand it, I still need lots of alone time. The last stretch is on Delaney Park and Eden Roads, some of my favorites with little to no traffic.  And my February century is completed on the kind of day rarely granted by the cycling gods in February.